A Birthday Fete for a Bechstein

One of the highlights of my weekend was a house concert I was privileged to be invited to, Sunday afternoon.

The venue was the home music studio of pianist Susan Adams, in West Kelowna. The room is generally filled with an assortment of harpsichords and small pianofortes. Susan is an early music enthusiast and most of her instruments predate the 20th Century, either in style or age. But yesterday, most of those instruments were moved out in order to make space for some 15 chairs, to be filled by friends of the Early Music Studio.

The raison d’être for the concert was the 100th birthday of her Bechstein piano. The year the piano was made, George V was made King of England, the Union of South Africa was created, Mother Theresa was born, Mark Twain died, and Gaston Leroux published Phantom of the Opera.

The concert opened with an introduction to the star of the show, the Bechstein itself. This particular piano was one of the first (after Steinway) to have a metal frame cast in a single piece, versus being cast in several pieces and bolted together.

“This design accounts for its very responsive quality,” Susan related. “The piano has a lovely dynamic range, from a full fortissimo to the merest breath of sound.”

We experienced this range from just inches away, as the music swelled from pp to ff, filling the room with a sound that would easily carry across a crowded theatre.

Susan chose her repertoire to show off all the piano’s capabilities, considering as she did key relationships, tempo and style, and making sure to mix a bit of familiar in with some lesser-known pieces.

The Bechstein piano was long a coveted instrument by Susan. This particular one was purchased in Surrey, B.C., restored in Peachland by piano restorer Marinus Van Prattenburg and refinished by Kelowna’s Buddy Tavarez.

“I’ve been just delighted with this piano since it has come into our lives. What a
wonderful instrument!” Susan shared.

If you’ve never been to a house concert – whatever the instrument(s) or musical stylings – I encourage you to seize upon the opportunity the next time it comes to you. More informal and much more intimate than a stage concert, ours had a bit of chit chat in between the songs, and it was inspiring to be so close to the performer, watching her nimble fingers dance across the keys. It brought to mind a graceful spider weaving an intricate, audio web.

Following the hour-long performance, there was tea and home made treats waiting for us all upstairs (because apparently preparing the complicated and challenging music was not enough, Susan had to wow us with her baking prowess too!). It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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  1. Thanks for sharing! In my mind I can hear this majestic sound now :-).
    As an (inscribe) music instrument maker I am always in awe when I see and hear these beautiful pianos.

  2. This house concert was a big emotional reward for me. During its restoration, I took the piano apart and put it back together again. Now, Susan makes it speak and sing with great skill; very sooting to the ear, heart and soul.

    Marinus v. P.

  3. I was one of the lucky people invited to this house concert and can think of no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Susan Adams is as gracious as she is talented as a musician and her choice of music for the event was quite wonderful. I was especially moved by her interpretation of the Brahms Intermezzo in A. This up close and personal type of gathering is perfect for this style of music.

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